Electric Dreams

The Origins of the Electric Dreams Community
Part I

Richard Catlett Wilkerson 

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Wilkerson, Richard Catlett (1999 November). The Origins of the Electric Dreams Community: Part I. Electric Dreams 6(11). Retrieved July 13, 2000 from Electric Dreams on the World Wide Web: http://www.dreamgate.com/electric-dreams

When USENET became popular among the USA University crowd in the late 1980's, the idea of the Regional Bulletin Board was expanded nationally (and in some cases, internationally) and the discussion of dreams could be found in various Usenet Newsgroup topic boards. Usenet was organized like a real bulletin board, where one could post a note and others could read and post replies. Group discussions may them develop over time. Because of the popularity of BBS's, the Usenet bulletin boards were called "Newsgroups". By the 1990's all but the most wild of the Newsgroups were accessible via the Internet, and it was clear that dreams needed their own Newsgroup. "alt.dreams" was formed.

According to John Herbert, the newsgroup alt.dreams was originally suggested by Jack Campin as a way to study contemporary culture. He wanted a snapshot of dreams in the late 20th Century much in the same way that _The Third Reich of Dreams_ gives a snapshot of the society in Nazi Germany. But it was soon apparent that the real appeal of alt.dreams was to share dreams and discussions about their significance and meaning.

Although alt.dreams provided a global gathering spot and spawned other related newsgroups like alt.dreams.lucid and alt.dreams.castaneda, the un-moderated venue lacked something essential for those used to face-to-face dream sharing. Individuals that did want more formed smaller private e-mail groups away from the alt.dreams newsgroup.

Electric Dreams

One of these groups distributed a collection of the dreams and comments between the subscribers and then published the comments and replies in a weekly format. When I found the community in the fall of 1994 they had grown to about 60 members and the dreams and comments were shared in a bi-monthly E-zine, (an electronically distributed magazine via E-mail) which they called Electric Dreams.

There has been much speculation about how "Electric Dreams" got its name. When I first asked the group, I was told that they decided to take a vote, and that was one of the options. Some people saw it as meaning dreams that were shared electronically, other felt it was a play on words from Philip K. Dick's novel _Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?_ which was made into the famous classic "Bladerunner". Recently, (Fall 1999) Victoria Quinton caught up with one of the original editors, Chris Beattie, and asked her where the name really came from. Chris felt that it came from the Movie, "Electric Dreams" about a computer that learns to love, and learns to dream about love and being human.

Interest in this format grew and Electric Dreams grew from 60 to 500 subscribers in the following year and added news, articles and experimental dream events, but remained primarily focused on dream sharing in cyberspace. Concerns about this free speech forum now include a). the potential abuse of interpretive authority (anyone can comment and pretend they are someone they are not and some feel that *any* comment is abusive), b). lack of support for dreamers who submit dreams (what if a dream interpretation unlocks psychological instability?) and c). context or set & setting confusion (What if someone thinks this is psychotherapy, what if children joined a group with adults? ).

Another of the problems faced by the Electric Dreams community was the two week delay in the dream being presented and the return comments. A solution was found when I met John Herbert and participated in his ALL SeniorNet Dream Bulletin Board. John Herbert's groups used a variation of some of the Ullman/Zimmerman techniques, which he had worked out on the WELL and ALL. A dream was selected, the group asked non-interpretive questions, then each person took the dream as their own. During the process, the dreamer could respond or reply as he or she chose.

The process was modified for e-mail and the first Electric Dreams Dream Circles were created. A dream was passed around in round-robin style from one e-mail address with questions and replies added by each participant. The ED Dream Circle was great for sharing dreams, but an administrative nightmare. Jay Vinton suggested we use a Mail List style approach and the problems seemed to disappear. In a Mail List approach, all the members send all comments to everyone in the group, even if the comment is directed to just one individual. This process creates a feeling of group identity and cohesion.

These new mail list dream groups, the Dream Wheels (No connection with the Ramsay Raymond Dreamwheel), have evolved in several new creative directions. Generally the process has been refined and newer sharing and distribution methods have improved.
These groups have expanded beyond the processing of individual and group psychology to include larger social issues, such as international dream sharing during the Kosovo Crisis, the attempt to deal with the media blitz of Princess Diana' tragic death, and other projects that transcend personal and national boundaries. Up and coming for the year 2000 is a project to tie the dreamwheel in with various spiritual communities online that are banding together to offer people a wide variety of paths to meaning and value.

If you are interested in joining an Electric Dreams dream group, send a note to the current moderator, Kathy Turner."Kathy Turner" <kathyturner@bigpond.com> You can also find out more about the groups and see sample sessions by sending an e-mail to scoop@dreamgate.com

Herbert, J.W.(1991) "Human Science Research Methods in Studying Dreamwork: Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis of Face-to-Face and Computer Dream Work Groups" Unpublished Manuscript, Saybrook Institute, San Francisco, <http://users.aol.com/john0417/HuSci/Greet.html> (25 Nov. 1996)

Herbert, J. W. (1991). "Notes on the creation of alt.dreams." In "Human Science Research Methods. (see above) <http://users.aol.com/john0417/HuSci/ApI-AltD.html> (28 Oct. 1996)

Beradt, Charlotte (1966). The Third Reich of Dreams. Translated by Adriane Gottwald. Chicago: Quadrangle Books.

Richards, Sarah (1996, April 22). "RE: Dream Interpretation: The significance of set and setting." ASD Web Bulletin Board. <http://www.outreach.org/cgi-bin/dbml.exe?template=
/asd/thread.dbm&threadid=171&messages =26#373>(25 Nov. 1996)

Wilkerson, Richard C.. (1995). "Dream Circles: A Sample Session of Dream Sharing using E-mail Round Robin.". Electric Dreams. <http://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/~mettw/edreams/circle>(28 Nov. 1996)